Vancouver Canucks: The team is finally coming together

They need a miracle to make the playoffs, but the Vancouver Canucks are finally coming together and showing glimpses of an extremely bright future.

Even if the Vancouver Canucks were to win their final nine games, they would still need a good amount of help to get into the playoffs.

A brutal month of February (they only won four games), and bad start to March (2-3-1 in the first six games), essentially ended any hope of Elias Pettersson and company reaching the postseason. Of course, 2018-19 was never about making the playoffs in Vancouver.

Rather, it was about a year of progress — where the Canucks would hopefully avoid the Western Conference basement and simply ice a more competitive team. And up until mid-February, this team was right in the thick of the playoff race.

The Canucks have since busted out of the slump and are playing their best hockey of the season. It may be too little too late in terms of fighting for a playoff spot, and yes it is jeopardizing their chances of earning a higher draft pick come June.

But fans need to be encouraged with how this team has started to come together over the past two weeks. Amid injuries to key players like Chris Tanev, Antoine Roussel, Sven Baertschi and Ben Hutton, the Canucks are rising to the challenge and making these final games meaningful and memorable.

Pettersson finally broke Pavel Bure’s record for most rookie points in a season. Bo Horvat is only strengthening his case as the future captain — leading this team through adversity with all the brutal injuries.

Josh Leivo is getting better with each passing game, and it’s not crazy to think he could be a 20-goal scorer next season. Brock Boeser needs just five points to surpass the 55 he totaled last season.

And oh, the Canucks are having fun playing the spoiler role in a tight playoff race. They handed the Dallas Stars a 3-2 shootout loss on Sunday, then defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime one day later. That was probably the dagger in the playoff hopes of Vancouver’s former arch rivals.

The Canucks are 3-0-1 in their last four games, as their young stars and other role players continue to turn it on late in the season. It’s wonderful to see that there’s no quit in this team, given all the banged-up bodies and the fact they’re more than unlikely to make the postseason for a fourth straight year.

You put it all together, and it’s not crazy to think the Canucks could finally make the playoffs again in 2020. They have a true and established No. 1 goalie in Jacob Markstrom, and a full season of Quinn Hughes will completely change the dynamic of the blue line.

With a world-class star in Peterson, a two-way force in Horvat and a game-changing sniper in Boeser, the Canucks have the bulk of the core in place. If they manage to stay healthy next season, Vancouver could be celebrating a playoff berth in a year’s time.

It took the Canucks until mid-March to regain their form from the first half, but players, coaches and fans should only feel inspired by how they’re finishing off an extremely difficult season.